THE BLOG
07/29/2013 04:10 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2013

Hollywoodspeak

Hey, ever been at a Hollywood party and wanted to impress a member of the opposite sex with your mastery of Hollywood jargon? Just rip out this page, fold it up, stick it in your wallet, and whip it out at the opportune time -- after a drink or two -- and use it for speed seduction as a form of neuro-linguistic programming. But brace yourself, because there is a complete disconnect between what a word means in English and what it means in Hollywood. When Humpty Dumpty said, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean" in Through the Looking Glass, he must have thought he was in Hollywood. So here goes:

"United States" means the United States (including our 51st state, Canada, and, for the hell of it, all of the Caribbean).

"Domestic" means the United States (including our 51st state, Canada, and all of the Caribbean).

"North America" means the United States and -- you guessed it -- Canada and all of the Caribbean, but it excludes Mexico because on Hollywood maps it is part of South America since Mexicans speak Spanish.

"First Look" means (depending on who you ask) either (a) a right of first negotiation (the weakest form of a right to acquire something) or (b) an option (the strongest form of a right to acquire something). So if you like litigation, use this term often.

"Gross." How could "gross" need a definition? Well if that's all you say, then based on custom and practice, it actually means that only 20 percent of video is included, and it also means that a bunch of "off-the-top" expenses are deducted (see below).

"Off-the-top expenses" means a bunch of expenses that someone decided at some point should always be deducted, even from Gross, in the interest of fairness -- even if they have nothing to do with the film (like trade dues) or shouldn't be deducted at all (like taxes for which a credit is available).

"Adjusted Gross" means, well, actually the same as "Gross," unless you are an agent that only got your client "Net" (see below) but wants to tell the client something that sounds better.

"Net" means you go hungry.

"Residuals" are one of the main reasons that most films lose money.

"Gross After Actual Break-Even" means "Net" (see above).

"Budget" means a forward-looking estimate of anticipated production costs...um, except when it means a backwards-looking statement of actual production costs. In either event, it is the fixed hard costs for producing a film (plus a pile on of expenses that have nothing to do with it).

"Attached" (as in "Tom Hanks is attached") means that you sent the script to the actor's agent and haven't received a rejection letter yet.

"NDA Agreement" means Non-Disclosure Agreement. It also means that whatever is disclosed pursuant to it will be summarized on an on-line blog in minutes.

"Pay or Play" means that the person is guaranteed to be paid (unless a number of standard conditions neuter the guarantee).

"Pay and Play" means you can't get a completion bond (see "Completion Bond").

"Completion Bond" means a guarantee that your film will be professionally completed on time exactly as originally envisioned (uh, although the bond company will use a camcorder and have the actors read their lines if it has to take over production).

"Loan Out Corporation" is what is left if you remove the skin of a balloon.

"Deal Memo," "Term Sheet," or "Letter of Intent" means the lame, half-baked document that is attached as Exhibit A to a complaint.

"Green Light" means that someone says that the film will be produced (unless it's not).

"Gap" means the difference between reality (the few bucks the producer has) and fantasy (the fully-funded Budget).

"Pay-or-Play": An absolute guarantee to pay talent the compensation owed, whether or not the film is made (unless, of course, any of the many stated conditions do not occur).
"Pre-Sale" means the sale of a film before production based on a pack of lies.

"Notice of Assignment" means a document sent by the bank loaning against a pre-sale that overrides all the lies in the pre-sale.

"Single-Picture Financing" means a transaction where investors lose money on a single film.

"Slate Financing" means a transaction where investors lose money on a bunch of films.

"Soft Floor" and "Hard Floor" have subtle Freudian connotations. Use these last.